Faith keeps us alive. Not that we are dead in the physical sense without faith, but our spiritual antenna is not picking up the waves of energy that we need to stay afloat and swim against the harsh currents in the sea of life’s torrents. We are re-energized with our renewal of faith. It is difficult for us humans to keep up the struggle of being on an even keel all the time. The storms of life confront us and we feel fear, despair, disappointment, anger and even loss of self-control.
This is why we need faith – faith in ourselves, faith that we will achieve what we set out to do and above all faith in the Supreme Being, whose presence will give us the wherewithal to pursue our dreams and the tools to accomplish them.
Jesus said if we had faith as small as a mustard seed we could move a mountain. Matt.l7:20 Yet, those of us who profess to believe in his Word remain cowards, afraid to venture into unfamiliar waters – afraid of getting our feet wet. Sometimes, most times, perhaps, we fear criticism, being laughed at, being ridiculed. This problem occurs more so in small societies where most people know each other and jealousy sometimes rears its ugly head . However, faith gives the believer the will and the strength to go on regardless, knowing that God is with him/her in his /her every endeavour.
I sometimes think of myself as a coward, fearing to venture into the unknown, yet there have been times when I just had to make up my mind to cross the big hurdle, to remove the doubts that come crowding in and around me. I never liked baring my soul to other people. I remember too well times when people would laugh or make fun of things that I thought were very serious and I would vow that I wouldn't approach those persons again with anything that I considered personal. I learned to take all my problems to God. This was a good lesson for me. Even though I would suffer in silence, I had the faith that God would answer my prayer and do what was better for me than any advice I would get from an uncaring person. The psalmist said put not your trust in any man Psalm 146 v.3 “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help.”
I remember once I visited someone I knew and in conversation I happened to mention an incident that took place and that she knew something about. To my chagrin, this lady thought it was so funny that she couldn’t stop laughing. I was totally bewildered and I just looked at her in dismay. I just couldn’t sum up the strength to leave at once, so I sat there and changed the conversation. However, it was not very long after that episode that this goodly lady dropped in to give me some papers she had for me. She had a very sad story to tell me regarding her son who had got into trouble hanging out with some bad youths and found himself on the wrong side of the law. This would have necessitated her having to go abroad to ‘see about things”. I listened to her in respectful silence. I couldn’t help wondering while I was listening to her what her reaction would have been if I had started laughing at her story. This brought to mind verse 11 of Chapter 7 of Ecclesiasticus in The NJB “Do not laugh at someone who is sad of heart,/ for he who brings low can lift up high.”
Over time the realization came to me that I had changed more than I had noticed. I had become more sensitive to the feelings of others. There were several reasons for this. I had lived abroad for a long time, l7 years to be exact. During this time I had married, given birth to a son, been divorced and had to make decisions for myself and my son. Strangers, in the form of neighbours, colleagues at work, came to my assistance, even when I didn’t ask for it. They were only strangers because they were not from my country and I had not known them before I arrived in London. However, the warmth and help I received from these people were touching indeed.
My son, too, made me look at myself more closely. From an early age, he would ask questions that seemed almost adult in their inquiry and I would find myself having to think well before I answered. Children of my day seldom carried on conversations with their parents. Grownups talked together and the children played outside or out of sight of hearing of the adults. We listened to what our parents told us and answered their questions and would relate something that had happened, but a real conversation with exchange of ideas was hardly something to be expected.
In time I became less selfish and more willing to share myself with others. I never stopped praying, however, and I know that my prayers have helped me to cope with life and to appreciate my God-given talents. Throughout all my activities, I always prayed for my son. I was always fearful for him, for like most youngsters he was so energetic and moved athletically beyond his age, that he never sensed the dangers in his pursuits. Twice I had to take him to the hospital in London to get stitches to his head - nine in one instance and four in the other; another large bump on his forehead later on convinced me that only prayer was the answer .
Driving across London one Saturday, the driver of a big Bedford van refused to stop at the Give Way sign. I crashed into his van and although I put my left arm to block my son Noel from danger, his head hit against the windscreen. A large bump showed itself, but I thanked God that nothing more serious had happened to him. I got away with two bruised knees and a broken radiator. My five-year old sobbed uncontrollably, not for his hurt, but for his mom’s bruised knees and our car that now looked a wreck. Naturally, I was unhappy at the outcome, but when I began to visualize all the other possibilities, I just shuddered. I thanked God over and over for keeping us both alive. Selwyn Hughes in his “Everyday with Jesus” says “Our prayers count in God’s big scheme of things, usually in ways beyond our knowing. The almighty sovereignty interweaves our intercession and His intervention into the final tapestry of His strategic purposes. How He does this is the miracle of His Grace.”
These and other events added to my increase in faith that God is protecting me and my son who was always into some adventure or other. I saw numerous evidences of his protection and I felt I had to keep close to him in order to benefit, not only from his protection, but also from the different miracles that happened from time to time. As we read in Psalm l38 v.7 “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou dost preserve my life;”. I always made a point to show Noel why it was necessary to do or not to do certain things because of the consequences. Of course, as most children, he didn’t always obey the rules, and even we grownups fall short on so many occasions.
I don’t mind suffering the consequences for my own actions. I am prepared to ask forgiveness for any wrong that I have done. However, when someone has done something amiss and willingly lets me or another pay for the wrongdoing, I see it as a grave injustice to myself or another. I remember as a teenager a close relative took me to buy a bicycle which he thought I needed to get to school. The money for the bike had come to me from an insurance premium that was paid on the death of my mother. I thought, naturally, it would be alright, since he was my uncle and in charge of myself and my two younger siblings. However, when I reached home with the bike all hell broke loose and my uncle’s wife treated me as if I had usurped her authority and bought something without letting her know. I somehow thought my uncle would have owned up and admitted that it was he who had taken me for the bike. Never a word. I suffered in silence, afraid to speak and tell the truth. At the age of seventeen, in a strange home, I was totally unhappy over this incident.
I spent a lot of time out of the house involving myself in different activities. I was good at quite a few things, like singing solos at concerts, acting in plays in which I played the lead part, winning recitation contests, taking part in table tennis competitions , as well as net-ball matches. I was also good at dancing and really enjoyed myself on the dance floor. Because I was good at these activities, I felt really great and never gave a thought that these were God’s gifts to me. Pride got in the way. I didn’t bother to go to church, I, who, with my two siblings had to be in church three times a day when we were younger. There were morning and evening services, as well as Sunday School in the afternoon for which we received gold stars for regular attendance.
However, I didn’t lose faith in God. I always felt He was there but not as uppermost in my mind as He became during my later years. Many have professed to having this experience where, as they got older and life’s tribulations confronted them they actually searched for Him. I didn’t have to search for Him; all I had to do was to turn to Him and ask for His help. I remember as a young child crying because they had crucified our Lord in the passion plays we used to watch every Lenten season. How cruel! I would think when He was so good. Was it at this point my sense of justice (or injustice) was aroused? I am not sure, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to hate my uncle for what he had done or omitted to do. I loved him because there was a pleasant history with him and my brother and myself.
During our early years, my brother Carl and myself would be sent to our grandmother’s in the country. There my uncle, still a young man , lived with his mother, our grandmother. He was always a serious sort of person, but he loved us and would bring home little snacks for us after work and would also take us for rides on his bicycle. My brother, about three or four years of age, would sit on the handle-bar as we called it and I about five or six would sit on the crossbar. Riding through the country lanes, sparsely populated with houses, the front of which displayed an array of gorgeous flowers of brilliant colours, was thrilling to us children. On one such occasion we saw some creature, I can’t remember which, run across in front of us. In our excitement, pointing and trying to have a better look, the bike swerved and the three of us were thrown into the grass. You never heard such laughter. To see our uncle thrown like that was real fun. We climbed back onto the bicycle and couldn’t wait to get home to tell our grandmother what had happened.
The memories of childhood are so important for us, even though some of them might be painful. They help us to cope with life in the most unusual way. Some of them come to us as nostalgia, to make our moments more pleasant or vivid. The unpleasant ones may cause us to use them as armours for our defence in future situations. However the early lessons taught us about our Saviour give us certain strength to resist the temptation to wallow in self pity. We listen to His Word and His Word sustains us. We call on His name in our direst need. Paul, the apostle, in Philippians 4:6 says “ Be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
This prayer has stood me in good stead in many situations. I remember in l994 I had my ticket for a trip to Las Vegas. Not long before I was ready to take my journey a plane on its flight from, I think, Chicago crashed killing all on board. This put me in a state of panic. I became really fearful of flying on this trip. I remembered the above prayer and started saying it. The calm that came over me while praying was truly awesome and I can say with sincerity that I felt the “peace which passes all understanding”. I took the long journey from Trinidad, via Caracas, Miami, Orlando and Denver, Colorado, to Las Vegas and had the most wonderful time with my friends there.
My friend Betty and I talked a lot about what God had done for us. She and her husband had done very well in Canada, but when the oil boom ended they had suffered some losses. They, however, were lucky or rather luckier than some others, and had moved to the U.S.A to start a new life. She gave me some leaflets with wonderful sayings that reflect Christian thought. I have memorized one or two of them and say them in my quiet moments.
I don’t feel hesitant to talk about God with my friends. There was a time when we were younger the name of God would bring looks of embarrassment to one or two in our set. Not that they didn’t go to church or were not Christians, but you could sense a certain discomfort in mentioning His name in a mixed gathering. A very straight-laced looking person could get away with it, but fun-loving youths appeared to be a little hypocritical, to say the least.
Our early upbringing and Bible lessons have given us ammunition to withstand the rigours of life. We look back at our past and wonder at our follies; how silly we sometimes were and how selfish. The redeeming grace of God has moved us from self-centeredness to one of open-mindedness. A quote from the Daily Word Jan.14 , 2004 shows this: “By the grace of God I am healed… By the grace of God, I am wise with a wisdom beyond what I learn from experience… By the grace of God I am prospered by divine love that continually gives to me and through me, enriching every area and every day of my life… The grace of God is a transforming power that lifts me out of doubt and limitation to experience the blessings of God.”
These blessings come to us in all forms.:
Wisdom. God gives us wisdom to see things we would not ordinarily be aware of. We get an insight into situations and their outcome that would have escaped us in the normal scheme of things, and we wonder why others are surprised at the results of certain actions.
Protection. God protects us in situations where it is impossible for us to protect ourselves and it is only when this happens we realize how much we are dependent on his grace. Psalm l38 v.7 says “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou dost preserve my life;”
Love. God loves us. That is why he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for us to save us from our sins. An important lesson Jesus taught us. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it . You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” He said there is no other commandment greater than these. Matt.22 vs. 37-39.
Now hate, the antithesis of love, destroys relationships, causes rifts, fuels anger, provokes rage and poisons the mind. It blinds those consumed by it to see only evil in others and ignore the good. It smoulders feelings of ill-will and ignites passions unnecessarily. Often hate breeds hate and children growing up in a home where love is absent and anger and violence are present often tend to display these negative qualities in their relationships. Love your neighbour as yourself is seldom manifested in the behaviour of these youngsters. Sometimes their own neighbours suffer as a consequence of their actions.
Hate breeds wars: wars between countries, religious wars, ideological conflicts, family disputes, insurrections, internal and external strife, and damages the peace that we need to live life abundantly. Too often the hate comes about because of envy and greed. Lacking in faith and trust in Jesus to bring us to salvation diminishes a belief in ourselves. We want what the other person has without thinking of the consequences of our covetousness. We pass these negative thoughts and feelings on to our children. We do not give them the right formulae not to be conformed to the world. This is a big problem in modern-day society. The youths must have the expensive sneakers that his pal is wearing and the designer jeans and other things that the parents can ill afford.
Peace Like love peace is one of the fruits of the spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We find peace when we put our faith in Jesus. We know that He has given us peace. “My peace I give to you”. We do not go around yearning for material things that we will leave behind anyway. We are more patient and tolerant of the fault of others. We recognize that if we are too condemnatory we stand a good chance of making them more hard-boiled and less willing to come round to our point of view. What we want to do is to share the love of Jesus with others and we can not do it if we upset them. Kindness and goodness will go a longer way to bring people to accepting Christ than animosity and strife. Self-control helps us to accomplish these virtues; we restrain ourselves from anger and the temptation to lash out because we are not in agreement.
Faith in Christ allows us to accomplish all these above-mentioned practices. We know that what we are lacking He will provide if we only ask. He wants us to be more like Him. He will help along that route if we earnestly seek Him and turn to Him in prayer. We must pray constantly and fervently. We must keep Satan away or he will bedevil all our movements and activities. Trust in God at all times and you will feel His presence.